Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by HIV, a virus that can be passed from person to person through sexual fluids blood and breast milk. Worldwide the majority of HIV infections are transmitted through sex between men and women, and half of all adults living with HIV are women. Certain groups of people have been particularly affected and these include injecting drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men. Slave trade has been an ongoing business interaction between multiple countries during the last century and has allowed the HIV virus to be spread internationally.
Although HIV and AIDS are found in all parts of the world, some areas are more afflicted than others. The worst affected region is sub-Saharan Africa, where in a few countries more than one in five adults is infected with HIV. The epidemic is spreading most rapidly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where the number of people living with HIV increased by 250 percent between 2001 and 2010.
Many Western countries, such as the UK, have increasing rates of HIV transmission through heterosexual sex. In America, where more than a million people are living with HIV, heterosexual sex accounts for one third of new diagnoses. (Averting HIV and AIDS, 2011) Although it is known how to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS, too few people have access to the necessary services.
With access to prevention tools such as HIV education, condoms, clean needles, and programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission the epidemic is improving in some countries.
(Center of Disease Control and Prevention, 2014) Political and cultural attitudes are significant regarding prevention: for example some authorities are opposed to condom promotion, while others refuse to support needle exchanges for injecting drug users. Many are reluctant to provide young people with adequate education about sex and sexual health. Another very serious issue is discrimination. People known to be living with HIV are often shunned or abused by community members, employers and even health workers. As well as causing much personal suffering, this sort of prejudice discourages people from seeking HIV testing, treatment and care, undermining efforts to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS. As recently as the 1970s, people were not aware of this deadly illness. Since then the global HIV/AIDS epidemic has become one of the greatest threats to human health and development.
During this time research has been performed internationally regarding the science of HIV and AIDS, as well as how to prevent and treat the disease. In 2011, an estimated16.8 billion dollars was spent on research, prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS in the United States alone, and 26 billion dollars internationally. (Sidibe, 2012) There is still no cure for HIV but HIV treatment has improved enormously since the mid-1990s. HIV-positive people who take a combination of antiretroviral drugs can expect to recover their health and live for many years without developing AIDS, as long as they keep taking the drugs every day.
Averting HIV and AIDS. (2011, June). Retrieved from avert.org. Center of Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, January 7). Retrieved from www.cdc.gov. Sidibe, M. (2012). UNAIDS Executive Director. UNAIDS, 6-12.
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